No Doubter for Cyclones in Dallas

Dallas, TX -- Although it wasn't technically a conference road victory, Iowa State was glad to take its 78-64 victory over Kansas State in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament Thursday afternoon. The Cyclones' first win of the season outside their home state came in a not-so-familiar fashion, too.

Curtis Stinson and Jake Sullivan paced them to a double-digit halftime lead, and then would help ISU sustain a Kansas State's last gasp early in the second. Wayne Morgan's team also shot a sizzling 55 percent in the second half, and out-rebounded their opponent by a 38-36 margin.

It was just the Cyclones' third win outside Iowa in the past three seasons. Two of those victories have come at the Big 12 Tournament, where ISU won its opening round game against Texas A&M in 2003. The other came in a preseason tournament in the 2001-02 campaign. But success away from Hilton Coliseum has been hard to come by during a 25-game regular season losing streak.

"The road losing streak is only a big deal to the media," said Morgan afterwards. "They're the only ones that talk about it, we don't. We take it a game at a time, and each time we play we try to play the best we can. That's all you can do. If you walk back in the locker room and everybody can look at each other and know you tried as hard as you could, that's all we can do.

"We had a great chance to win a game in Nebraska, and we should have won the game in Kansas. We'll get to a point in our program where we win road games, and when it comes to a point where we fill up our classes with guys we've recruited, we'll win a lot of those games. I've only been the coach here for a season."

With their 17th victory of the season, the Cyclones advanced to face Oklahoma State Friday at Noon. During a near-flawless home campaign, the Cowboys were the only team to emerge victories at Hilton Coliseum, blowing Morgan's team out by an 88-67 margin a month ago.

"My thought is we have to come out strong," said Stinson, who will try to duplicate his Thursday afternoon effort (24 points on 11-of-13 shooting). "They're a great team and this is a rematch. Hopefully we play the way we did today, and we'll be on. We're just going to go out there and leave everything on the floor. We've got to beat the best to win this tournament."

An effort like his from Thursday could be enough for the Cyclones to pull off an upset over the top-seeded Cowboys. Playing with a severe sprain in his left hand, Stinson could not miss from the field. Much of his work was done inside the lane or on running shots, but he would add one 3-pointer in the first half.

And as usual, the freshman guard showed up in virtually every category, grabbing five rebounds, dishing out four assists and added a pair of steals.

"He's a great player," said Kansas State coach Jim Woolridge. "I've sung his praises all year long. The first time I saw him on film, I thought he had some innate abilities to play this game. I am even more convinced of it now. He's obviously a great freshman, but is going to be one of those real special players in this league."

In addition to Stinson's 24 points, Morgan got big games from Sullivan and Jared Homan. After hitting four 3-pointers in the second half last month against the Wildcats, Sullivan didn't wait quite as long Thursday to get going. The senior guard scored 15 of his 21 points in the first half, and was particularly fluent from around the 15-foot range as K-State sought to take away his outside shot.

Homan added a double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds, including six offensive boards, and showed signs of returning to his early-season form.

ISU's inability to control the tempo proved to be a detriment in its two previous meetings with the Wildcats. It wasn't on Thursday, as the Cyclones forced the issue on defense with a half-court trap, and executed well in their patented zone defense. K-State's 37 percent shooting also helped fuel its opponent's transition game.

"We were very active in our zone today," Morgan said. "We kind of knew exactly what we would have to do to have an opportunity to beat Kansas State, because (Tim) Ellis is a terrific shooter, and (Jarrett) Hart is a terrific shooter. We had to get to them.

"In the first half, because of the intensity of the zone, we were taking their shots away and then covering inside so they couldn't throw it in when we front the post."

The first three minutes of Thursday's game was a seesaw affair, as both teams traded buckets and fought to a 5-5 tie. But the Cyclones took control of it from there by scoring 16 of the next 19 points for a 21-8 edge at the 11:19 mark.

Woolridge added to K-State's early downfall by being whistled for a technical foul by official Curtis Shaw, who Cyclone fans may remember for kicking former coach Larry Eustachy out of a 2000 NCAA Tournament game against Michigan State. Nearly three minutes later, Wildcat post player Marques Hayden drew another technical foul on a 3-point play by Jared Homan.

The Wildcats never recovered from their early misfortune, only closing the deficit to eight points the rest of the first half. ISU recovered to take a 42-29 edge into the locker room, then extended that lead to 21 points with an 11-3 spurt to open the second half.

"Once we got past the first few possessions, I never felt like we played well enough, we were getting beat at all facets of the game, and I can't explain why, other than the fact that Iowa State was better prepared," Woolridge said. "My hat's off to Iowa State. They out-played us, out-hustled us, and out-coached us."

CN would like to thank Off Campus Apparel & Novelties for making our coverage of the Big 12 Tournament possible. If you're looking for Cyclone merchandise, chances are Off Campus Apparel & Novelties has it. You can visit Off Campus Apparel & Novelties year-round at 4090 Merle Hay Road in Des Moines.

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